Back to school – in safety: The role of schools policing
The Violence Reduction Unit has always placed great emphasis on the valuable role which schools play in creating safe communities and supporting young people. In this latest blog, Sergeant Russ Massie, the VRU’s lead for Child Centred Policing and the Tactical Lead for Thames Valley Police shares his views and some updates on the work we are delivering:
Schools are a place of learning. They’re a place where children forge lifelong relationships and develop the skills they’ll need to navigate their place in the world. Above all, they should also be a place of safety.
We believe that Schools Policing is crucial to the wellbeing and safety of all students. Conversely, when incorrectly managed, schools policing can be disproportionately harmful.
The Thames Valley VRU believe that effective schools policing focuses on the following priorities:
Early Intervention and Prevention.
We strongly believe that we need to embed a recognition of trauma and adversity into effective schools policing. Police, school staff and teachers need to work together to protect and support young people.
Schools are perfectly placed to notice changes in a young person’s behaviour, their attendance, their performance at school, perhaps signs of exploitation and harmful relationships or influences.
The police too may have a unique insight and intelligence of such risk factors and have their own roles in responding quickly to risk. But they can also work with a school to ensure that support and appropriate interventions can be provided, to protect a child first and foremost, but also to ensure their continued access to education and quality of life outcomes.
These are public health approaches – seeking to work together in partnership and to share information where appropriate to prevent harm and risk from developing later in life.
Engagement and Education.
Building trust and legitimacy with children is crucial for policing. Research shows that trained police officers delivering classroom inputs increases trust as well as subject knowledge. This research forms the basis of the Thames Valley VRU partnership with PSHE Association, training officers to deliver key topics safely in the classroom where children feel safe Police in the classroom (pshe-association.org.uk).
These resources have been made available to all schools in our region and Schools Officers have been trained to deliver these inputs.
Also, our Neighbourhood Policing Teams continue to play an important role, getting to know young people in their local area. Officers and PCSOs make visits to primary and secondary schools, fostering a trust which can stick with a young person as they grow older.
Trust means confidence in seeking help when they need it, trust means speaking up when they know they should, and it is vital to building safe communities.
Consistent crime responses.
By supporting all schools equally, and being clear when schools can appropriately deal with incidents C&YP schools guide (npcc.police.uk) we can avoid over-policing young people. Schools Policing is not about ‘widening the net’ or contributing to the ‘schools to prison pipeline’, but is an opportunity to respond when necessary and offer diversionary outcomes. Timely and proportionate responses to crime allow children the opportunity to succeed in adult life whilst also supporting children who are victims of, or witnesses to, crime.
The Thames Valley is home to over 1300 schools and approximately 540,000 children. Thames Valley VRU support Thames Valley Police’s network of dedicated Safer Schools Officers by providing tactical guidance and training and development opportunities. In the last year we have trained all TVP Safer Schools Officers in safe classroom delivery and provided Restorative Justice Practitioner training through VRU partners.
It is imperative that all students benefit from the support of Safer Schools policing, with policing being a part of the solution to violence reduction and community safety. This Autumn, we have commissioned Listen Up – Amplifying lesser heard voices in child safeguarding to provide Racial Bias and Adultification training to ensure that policing powers in the Thames Valley continue to be used only when necessary and in the interests of keeping children and young people safe.
Policing in schools is a sensitive yet crucial issue. Education has the opportunity to drive safer communities and to equip children with the knowledge and confidence to make great choices, and the support they need to overcome adversity. Good schools policing, rooted in kindness, fairness and true partnership working can help schools to allow every child to be judged on their hard work and ability, and nothing else.
For the first time, the VRU is directly investing into developing a new model of support in school; Schools Navigators. We look forward to sharing more information on this initiative as it develops in coming weeks.